Exercise

8 Best Back Exercises

When we think of exercising, the first muscles that come to mind will probably be the arms, chest and stomach. We consider strengthening the biceps, building up the pectorals and flattening the abdominals. However, the back is often entirely forgotten about.

This is a shame, as it is the back that supports us throughout virtually every aspect of our daily lives: standing, sitting, leaning over the laptop and doing the grocery shopping. All of these activities involve the back.

Exercising the back strengthens the muscles and can provide enormous health benefits. What’s more, if you are a bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast, a strong and powerful back creates overall better definition and assists with training.

This best back exercises article will explore how the muscles of the back work and the benefits of exercising them. In addition, we will explain some of the best back exercises you can complete, whatever your targets. Whether building large muscle mass or just wanting improved flexibility.

What Are the Back Muscles?

There are five main muscles in the back, as detailed below:

Latissimus Dorsi

best back exercises - woman lifting weights

These are the muscles that are distinctive on bodybuilders. If you have seen them pose, you may recall a ‘wing’ type effect that extends from the back of the ribs to the armpit. They are the latissimus dorsi or ‘lats’.

Their function is to allow the movement of reaching upwards, pulling, stretching forwards and strengthening posture.

Trapezius

best back exercises - trapezius

The trapezius is large muscle that starts from the middle of your back, and then extends upwards in a ‘fan’ shape to the shoulders and neck. Again, if you imagine a bodybuilder, these are the muscles that provide a sloping effect from high on the neck to the shoulders.

Quite often they are simply known as ‘traps’. They are responsible for shoulder movement, neck strength and supporting the head.

Erector Spinae

best back exercises - do yoga excercise

Sometimes known as ‘spinal erectors’, this group of muscles is located on either side of your spine, stretching from the pelvis up to the base of the skull. These muscles allow the spine to have a full range of movement in any given direction.

Rhomboid

best back exercises - rhomboid

Found underneath the trapezius, the rhomboids allow you to pull your shoulders back and towards each other

Teres Major

best back exercises - body lifting

This muscle connects the scapula (shoulder blade) to the humerus (upper arm). The teres major, sometimes called the ‘little tat’, works in conjunction with the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder to allow the arm to move.

Benefits of Exercising the Back Muscles

best back exercises - girl on workout

Exercising the back muscles has physique, health and flexibility benefits.

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Provides Support

The muscles in the back surround the ligaments, joints and vertebrae discs. They both support and reinforce these essential parts of the anatomy. Strengthening the back muscles through exercise leads to less chance of injury or strains.

Reduces Stiffness

As we age, ligaments, our tendons and muscles are not as flexible as they once were. Exercising the back improves flexibility and mobility. Firstly, this has the benefit of making everyday household chores, or any physical work, much easier. Secondly, it again reduces the likelihood of tears or strains.

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Improves Disc Health

Studies have shown that exercising the back provides the vertebrae discs with nutrition to keep them healthy – essentially glucose and oxygen. Nutrients gather in the center of the disc. As the back is exercised, they are ‘squeezed’ out and spread across the entirety of the disc itself.

Enhances Posture

Exercising and strengthening the back muscles has the effect of pulling the shoulders and sides backwards, thereby improving posture. Trials have shown that, following a back exercise regime, posture is improved, pain is alleviated and the chances of further back issues are reduced.

Improves Physique

If you are someone who is working towards a toned or even enhanced muscular body, back exercises are essential. Firstly, they create an overall balanced appearance and posture. Working the front of the body (arms, chest and stomach) will pull your body forward, creating a ‘hunched’ appearance. Exercising the back alleviates this and allows you to stand tall.

Furthermore, many exercises (bench press, deadlifts etc.) place a large strain on the back. Even weight lifting belts cannot prevent all injuries. Ensuring a powerful back means that the chance of incurring damage during exercise is reduced. However, it is worth stressing that using the correct technique is also priceless.

As we have now seen the numerous benefits of exercising the back, it is time to obtain those results. I have listed below the best exercises for the back, with and without equipment.

However, it is important to make something clear. The back is an essential part of the anatomy. If you are suffering from severe or chronic back pain, first consult your physician before completing these exercises.

Best Back Exercises Without Equipment

best back exercises - woman ready to workout

Try to exercise the back at least twice a week, but avoid working out on consecutive days.

Superman - Best Exercise for the Spinal Erectors

Although this exercise works the whole back, it particularly concentrates on the spinal erectors. The ‘superman’ is most comfortably done on an exercise mat if you have one.

  • Lie face downwards on the floor or mat.
  • Keep legs together, toes pointed.
  • Extend arms along the floor above your head. Each palm directly       above the corresponding shoulder. Lock arms.
  • Raise your arms, chest and legs off the floor in one motion, about        three to four inches is optimum.
  • The only part of your body touching the ground should be your lower abdominal area.
  • Hold until fatigue is reached.
  • Rest for three minutes.
  • Complete twice more, with a three minute break in-between.
  • As you complete this exercise, try to pull the shoulders back as much as possible for maximum benefit on the spinal erectors.

    Lifting Bridge with Walk - Best Exercise for Stabilization

    The lifting bridge again works the spinal erectors and in addition strengthens the whole back. By working the smaller stabilizer muscles, it can improve posture. What’s more, this exercise is a good workout for the glutes.

  • Lie flat on the floor, back to the ground.
  • Lay, arms by your sides, palms down.
  • Raise up knees, keeping feet planted on the floor, shoulder-width          apart.
  • This is the starting position.
  • Pushing with your feet, raise buttocks off the floor as high as               possible. Keep arms tightly pressed against the ground.
  • In this position, raise the right foot by four inches.
  • Hold for one second.
  • Lower right foot and raise left foot.
  • Hold for one second.
  • Lower left foot back to floor.
  • That is one repetition.
  • Complete 10-12 repetitions.
  • Rest for three minutes. Complete two more sets, with a three minute    break in between.
  • As you improve in this exercise, increase the number of repetitions.

    Fallen Angels - Best Trapezius Exercise

    This exercise is hard on the trapezius muscles and also gives the rhomboid and teres major a beneficial workout.

  • Lay face-down on the floor, legs together.
  • Toes should be touching the ground.
  • Place arms by your sides, palms face-down.
  • Raise hands and arms about one to two inches off the floor.
  • This is the starting position.
  • At all times, keep arms locked and palms down.
  • Sweep arms upwards above your head until both thumbs touch.
  • You are aiming for a ‘snow-angel’ action (but do not move the legs).
  • Return back to starting position again.
  • Complete 10 repetitions.
  • Rest for three minutes. Complete two more sets, with a three minute    break.
  • As your forehead and nose are touching the floor, an exercise mat or thin cushion under the face will improve comfort.

    Flying Dog - Best All-Round Back Exercise

    The flying dog, sometimes known as the bird dog, exercises all the major muscles in the back.

  • Take up an ‘all-fours’ position.
  • Hands should be palms down, arms locked, directly underneath the     shoulders.
  • Ensure knees are below the hips.
  • At all times keep the back straight.
  • This is the starting position.
  • Raise up right arm and position directly in front of you, arm locked.     Imagine Superman flying.
  • At the same time, raise up left leg and extend behind you, keeping it   straight and as much in line with your back as you can achieve.
  • Hold for one second.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Complete with the left arm and right leg.
  • Return to starting position.
  • That is one repetition.
  • Try for 10 repetitions and then rest for three minutes. Complete twice    more with another three minute break in-between.
  • As you become more competent in this exercise, try to add more repetitions and increase the time of the ‘hold’.

    Best Back Exercises with Equipment

    best back exercises - types of weights

    Weights increase the amount of resistance during exercising. This means that strength and power are increased more than exercising without them can provide. In addition, if you are looking to increase definition and improve physique, they are essential.

    If your target is large muscle gains, use a weight that brings fatigue in the number of repetitions indicated. However, if achieving tone and tightness is the aim, use lighter weights.

    Barbell Row - Best Exercise for the Latissimus Dorsi

    An exercise which gives the ‘lats’ and lower back a great workout.

  • Stand upright holding a barbell, palms facing forwards and arms at     full extension.
  • Feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend knees slightly.
  • Lean forwards by bending at the waist. The ideal position is just a       couple of inches before your back becomes parallel with the floor.
  • Head should be up, facing directly in front of you, not looking at the   ground.
  • This is the starting position.
  • Breathe out and pull the barbell to your waist, by bending the arms.
  • At all times ensure back remains in the starting position.
  • Hold for one second.
  • Lower to the starting position, breathing in.
  • That is one repetition.
  • Complete three sets of 10-12 repetitions, with a three minute break      in-between.
  • If you have any lower back issues, this exercise is best avoided, or at the very least consult with your physician first.

    The Shrug - Best Trapezius Exercise

    Completing the shrug exercise can develop the familiar ‘sloping neck’ appearance, typical to bodybuilders. It singles out the ‘traps’ for a powerful workout.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell below the          waist, with arms fully extended.
  • Palms should be facing towards the thighs.
  • Ensure arms are locked.
  • This is the starting position.
  • Breathe out and raise your shoulders up towards your ears.
  • Hold for one second.
  • Breathe in and lower bar to starting position.
  • That is one repetition.
  • Complete three sets of 10 repetitions, resting for three minutes             before each set.
  • Ensure that, when you raise the barbell, the neck and shoulders are powering the movement, not the biceps. Alternatively, this exercise can be completed with dumbbells.

    Barbell Good Morning - Best Spinal Erector Exercise with Weights

    This is an exercise that needs to be taken seriously. As it places a lot of strain on the lower back, it’s advisable to start with lighter weights.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Barbell should be placed           behind the neck and across the shoulders.
  • Palms should be facing forwards.
  • At all times during this exercise, look directly in front.
  • This is the starting position.
  • Breathe in and bend the hips, lowering your upper-body forwards.
  • Stop when your chest is parallel to the floor.
  • Hold for one second.
  • Breathe out and slowly return to the starting position again.
  • Complete three sets of 10-12 repetitions, always ensuring a three-        minute break between sets.
  • Pull-ups - Best All-Round Exercise with Equipment

    A good warm-up or warm-down exercise that uses the body and gravity for resistance. All you need is a pull-up bar. This exercise works every muscle in the back, although it pushes the latissimus dorsi muscles the most.

  • Grasp the pull-up bar with palms facing forward, slightly more than     shoulder-width apart. Ensure legs are not touching the floor. If you       cannot hang without touching the ground, raise your legs behind you.
  • This is the starting position.
  • Breathe out and raise your chest up until it touches the bar, by         pulling the shoulders back. Try to concentrate on the shoulders and   back muscles for this maneuver, using the forearms as little as     possible.
  • Hold for one second.
  • Breathe in and slowly lower to the starting position.
  • Complete three sets of eight repetitions, resting for three minutes in-    between.
  • As you become competent in this exercise, you can increase difficulty by adding weights to a weight belt before commencing.

    Conclusion

    The back muscles are some of the most important muscles in the body, and are involved in virtually every movement we make. Ensuring that they are in optimum condition can improve health, flexibility and reduce the likelihood of injury.

    Find the right exercise for you above, or a combination, and you will be giving your back the workout it deserves.

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    Best Bicep Workout: Build A Serious Mass


    Out of all the muscle groups in the body, the biceps are the ones that are most frequently on display. If you know someone who has been spending time at the gym, they will often show you their upper arms to display their progress. Rarely will they bring out their thighs as evidence.

    Providing the biceps with an effective workout can improve appearance, give you that ‘ripped’ look and lead to health benefits too. Massive muscle does not have to be the endgame. Workouts will also improve tone and strength if the correct exercise regime is followed.

    This best bicep workout article will explain what the biceps are and the benefits of following a bicep workout. In addition, it includes two effective programs, one with weights and one without, to ensure that the biceps are operating at optimum levels.

    What Are the Biceps?


    The bice​​​​ps (or more correctly the biceps brachii) are muscles in the upper arms, reaching from the scapula (shoulder) down to the elbow. They are versatile muscles which have two main functions – supination and flexion of the arm.

    Man flexing his biceps

    Supination

    This movement is a ‘turning’ process. Many of us have been in situations where we have been unable, for example, to unscrew the top off a jar of pickles. In these circumstances we often pass the jar on to someone with more strength. This unscrewing action is supination.

    Flexion

    A flexion movement is one which decreases the angle of the limb at the joint. Imagine opening a door by pulling it towards you. As you do this, the arm bends at the elbow, that’s flexion.

    The biceps are not alone in the upper arm, they share the same space with the brachialis and coracobrachialis muscles. When completing any bicep workout, it also puts these other two muscles under pressure.

    What Are the Benefits of Bicep Workouts?


    Following a bicep workout will improve the strength, health and size of the muscle. If you are looking for distinctive gains, use heavy weights with low repetitions. Alternatively, lighter weights and high repetitions will provide a tight and toned appearance.

    Here are some further benefits of working out the biceps:

    1. Improves Bone Strength

    Resistance training, whether by the use of weights or the body as the antagonist, does not only strengthen muscles. Studies have shown that regularly putting the bones under stress improves their density. Furthermore, the same studies have indicated that it can reduce the chance of developing osteoporosis.

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    2. Enhances Appearance

    Since the biceps are the muscles most often on display, providing them with a workout means their definition and shape is improved. Whether wearing a t-shirt or close-fitting clothes, developed bicep muscles create a positive impression of health and fitness.

    3. Can Reduce Fat Mass

    Not only do bicep workouts improve appearance by building muscle, they can also trim down the figure. Studies have shown that following a resistance training program leads to a loss in fat mass.

    4. Improves Sporting Ability

    If you play sports that use the arms, undergoing bicep workouts will increase strength power and flexibility.

    Many different disciplines, such as tennis, baseball, football and basketball, all involve supination and flexion of the biceps.

    What Is the Best Bicep Workout Without Weights?


    If you are looking for tight and toned upper arms, but don’t want to gain large muscle mass, here is a complete workout that does not involve weights.

    Try to complete this in its entirety at least twice a week, with a minimum of one day off between sessions. On average, including resting time, it should take around one hour.

    Push-Ups

    The push-up is probably the most well-known of all weight-free exercises. It is a great workout for the biceps, but also works the deltoids, pectorals and triceps.

    Man doing push-up
    1. Lie face down, palms flat on the ground beneath your shoulders.
    2. Raise your body off the floor so that your arms are locked. The only points of contact should be the palms of your hands and your toes.
    3. Ensure that your back, legs and buttocks are in a straight line.
    4. This is the starting position.
    5. Bend your arms to lower yourself towards the floor.
    6. Stop when the arms reach 90 degrees.
    7. Return to the starting position by pushing with your arms until they are fully extended.
    8. This is one repetition.
    9. Complete 10 repetitions, rest for three minutes and then do two more sets, with a three minute break in-between.

    Try to increase the number of repetitions by one extra push-up every session.

    Chin-Up

    The chin-up requires a horizontal surface to grip onto. You may be lucky enough to have large door frames which will suffice. Alternatively, you can purchase relatively inexpensive chin-up bars that fit across doorways, or use playground equipment.

    The chin-up is completed with palms facing inwards to exercise the bicep. If they face outwards (the pull-up) the exercise works the back muscles.

    Man doing chin-ups
    1. Grasp the bar, palms facing towards you. They should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
    2. Hang from the bar.
    3. If your feet are still touching the ground, bend your knees and bring them up behind you.
    4. At all times keep the body straight.
    5. This is the starting position.
    6. Breathe out and pull yourself up to the bar, concentrating on using your biceps.
    7. When your chin is just above the bar, stop.
    8. Hold for one second.
    9. Breathe in and slowly lower yourself down, again ensuring you are using your biceps. Do not ‘drop’.
    10. Continue until 10 repetitions are completed. Rest for three minutes, then do two more sets with a three minute break in-between.

    As you improve, you can increase difficulty by wearing a weighted backpack during this exercise.

    Inverted Row

    Although this exercise is best done with a low horizontal bar, a table can also be used. However, always ensure that the table can be reached when lying flat beneath it, and that it is heavy and sturdy enough not to be broken or move during the exercise.

    Man doing inverted rows
    1. Lie on the ground, below a table. Your shoulders and head should be the only part of the body not underneath.
    2. Stretch your arms upwards and grab the edge of the table, palms facing away from you.
    3. This is the starting position.
    4. Breathe out and pull yourself upwards towards the table using your biceps.
    5. Keep the torso, abdomen and legs in one straight line.
    6. Stop when your chest touches the table.
    7. Hold for one second.
    8. Breathe in and lower yourself slowly to the starting position again.
    9. This is one repetition.
    10. Repeat until 10 reps have been achieved. Rest for three minutes.
    11. Complete two more sets with a three minute rest in-between.

    This exercise also provides a good workout for the abdominal muscles and back.

    Backpack Curls

    This is an exercise that uses a backpack and towel for resistance. Start with just a couple of pounds in the backpack (for example, a bag of sugar), and then increase every session.

    1. Prepare the backpack by placing some weighted object of your choice inside. If the backpack has a carrying handle on top, pass a towel through this. If it does not, slip a towel through both arm straps.
    2. Stand with feet slightly apart.
    3. Grasp the towel with both hands on either side, allowing the backpack to hang in front of you. The backpack should be as far off the ground as possible. Adjust by either passing the towel through a few more times, or wrapping round your hands.
    4. This is the starting position.
    5. Breathe out and raise the backpack upwards, only by bending your arms at the elbow.
    6. Stop when your arms cannot raise the backpack any higher.
    7. At the uppermost point, your palms should be facing your shoulders.
    8. Breathe in as you slowly lower the backpack to the starting position again.
    9. This completes one repetition.
    10. Repeat until 10 repetitions are completed. Rest. Then do two more sets with a three minute break in-between.

    Try to keep the back straight and avoid a ‘swinging’ motion to raise the backpack. This will not help your biceps.

    What Is the Best Bicep Workout with Weights?

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    If achieving large upper arm muscles is the aim, weights are invaluable. The following workout is designed to increase strength, power and definition in the biceps.

    Repetitions should be completed as indicated below, with weights that provide fatigue at this number. The whole workout should take 45-60 minutes including rest breaks. Complete twice a week, with two to three days’ rest between sessions.

    Barbell Curl

    A good exercise to start the workout that pushes the biceps hard. Equipment required – a barbell with weights.

    Man doing bicep curls
    1. Stand with feet together and your back straight.
    2. Hold a barbell with arms extended at around waist height, palms outwards and shoulder-width apart.
    3. This is the starting position.
    4. Breathe out and curl the barbell upwards until it reaches your shoulders. Only move your forearms.
    5. Hold this position for two seconds.
    6. Breathe out, and slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position again.
    7. That completes one repetition.
    8. Continue until eight repetitions are completed. Rest for three minutes.
    9. Complete three more sets. Eight repetitions, then 10 and then a final 10.
    10. Ensure a three minute break between sets.

    During this exercise, the only movement should come from your forearms, nowhere else.

    Seated Close Grip Curl

    Sometimes called the ‘concentration’ curl, this exercise strengthens the biceps along with the brachialis and coracobrachialis. Equipment required – a barbell and bench.

    Man doing bicep curls
    1. Sit on the edge of a bench, feet flat, with the barbell on the floor in front of you.
    2. Open your legs so that the knees are shoulder-width apart.
    3. Reach down between your legs and grasp the barbell with palms facing outwards. They should both be close together, around two inches either side of the middle of the bar.
    4. Raise the bar around four inches off the floor.
    5. Your back should be at around a 45-degree angle.
    6. This is the starting position.
    7. Breathe out and curl the bar upwards to your shoulders. Only move your forearms, not the upper arms or back.
    8. When the bar reaches the shoulders, stop.
    9. Hold for one second.
    10. Slowly lower to the starting position again.
    11. This completes one repetition.
    12. Repeat until 10 repetitions have been completed. Rest for three minutes.
    13. Complete two more sets of 10 repetitions, always taking a three minute break.

    Hammer Curls

    A variation on traditional curls, that works both the biceps and triceps. Equipment required – two dumbbells.

    Man doing some weight lifting
    1. Stand feet slightly apart with a dumbbell in each hand. Arms fully extended by your sides.
    2. Palms should be facing inwards towards each other. They remain in this position for the entirety of the exercise.
    3. This is the starting position.
    4. Starting with the right arm, exhale and curl the dumbbell upwards towards the shoulder. At all times, the only movement should come from the forearm.
    5. When the dumbbell reaches the shoulder, stop.
    6. Hold for one second.
    7. Breathe in and slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position.
    8. Complete the same movement with the left arm.
    9. That is one repetition.
    10. Continue for 12 repetitions. Rest for three minutes.
    11. Compete two further sets of 12 repetitions with a three minute break in-between.

    If you wish, this exercise can be completed while sitting on the side of a bench.

    Barbell Bench Curl

    This exercise is made slightly easier by using a bench for support. This means that it is not as difficult as other curls and therefore perfect as the final exercise. For safety, get a ‘spotter’ to give you the barbell once in position. Equipment required – bench and barbell.

    Woman doing some bicep curls
    1. Kneel at the side of a bench, so your body is facing it.
    2. Place forearms on the bench, wrists should be over the edge. The elbows should constantly be in contact with the bench throughout the exercise.
    3. Receive the barbell from the ‘spotter’ with palms facing up.
    4. The grip should be shoulder-width apart.
    5. This is the starting position.
    6. Breathe out and curl the bar upwards, only move the forearms.
    7. When the bar reaches the shoulders, stop.
    8. Hold for one second.
    9. Breathe in and lower the bar to the starting position.
    10. That is one repetition.
    11. Continue for 12 repetitions. Rest.
    12. Complete two further sets of 12 repetitions, with a three minute break in between.

    Conclusion


    Of all the muscles, the biceps are the ones that can show to the world that you are looking after your body. Furthermore, they promote the appearance of strength and power.

    But the benefits of improved daily function, strengthened bones, sporting enhancement and fat loss, probably outweigh the aesthetic benefits.

    Completing the above workouts can leave you looking and feeling at your absolute best.

    2 Of The Best Chest Workout Routine

    Working out the chest can lead to improved tone or large muscle mass, depending on your targets. The torso is probably second only to the arms in the visibility stakes. Having a well-formed and enhanced upper body indicates that you are looking after yourself and take pride in your appearance.

    Although achieving a bulkier torso is not impossible, it does require determination and an understanding of how the muscles work and develop.

    This article will explain the function of the chest muscles. In addition, we will explore the benefits of exercising the torso, and our best workout for building a toned, muscular and powerful chest.

    Man flexing his chest muscles

    Physiology of the Chest Muscles

    You will be familiar with the term ‘pecs’ as a colloquialism for describing the chest. In essence, this includes two muscles—the pectoralis major and minor.

    The pectoralis major is the largest chest muscle, extending from the sternum up towards the clavicle (collarbone) and across to the humerus (upper arm). It is often described as being ‘fan’ shaped.

    Its function is to support the shoulder joint in movement:

    • Flexion – the movement involved in ten-pin bowling release.
    • Adduction – ‘flapping’ like a bird.
    • Rotation – allowing the arm to move from the outside of the body to the inside.
    • Attachment – allowing the arm to be bound to the torso.

    Working this muscle results in a prominent upper chest area and assists strength in the arms and shoulders.

    The pectoralis minor is a much smaller, triangular muscle, found underneath the pectoralis major. It is connected to the third to fifth ribs on one side and to the scapula (shoulder blade) on the other. The pectoralis minor stabilizes the scapula by drawing it down towards the chest.

    Both of these muscles need to be worked to have the most powerful and proportioned chest.

    Benefits of Working the Chest Muscles

    Working the chest is not always about gaining enormous muscle mass. Although, that can be the result if you are willing to work hard. Below are the main benefits of chest exercising.

    Improves Appearance

    A tight,, toned chest can look aesthetically pleasing, whether clothed or unclothed. It improves posture and confidence.

    Enhances Other Muscle Groups

    The chest muscles do not work in isolation. Whether working out at the gym, or just carrying out normal day-to-day routines, they work in conjunction with other muscle groups – especially the arms and the shoulders.

    Place your left hand on your right pectoral muscle. Clench your right fist, and perform a weight-free bicep curl. You will feel your pectoralis major contract during this exercise. Throughout the day, this is occurring. Arm movement involves the chest muscles. Hence, having a powerful torso will make all upper body movements easier.

    Furthermore, if you are serious about weight-training, strong chest muscles can prevent injury to the arm and shoulders by providing solid reinforcement.

    Fit guy with big chest muscles

    Improves Everyday Life

    Anytime you perform a ‘push’ movement (opening doors, moving furniture, washing the car) you are using the chest muscles. Having a strong and developed chest reduces energy expenditure and makes normal daily tasks simple.

    Improves Health

    Chest workouts involve resistance, which has been proven to burn calories. As a consequence, weight can be lost. In addition, it can also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

    Best Chest Workout Without Weights

    If you are looking for enhanced muscle and tone, but want to stay clear of large muscle gains, weights are not essential. The following workout will provide visible results, as long as you are dedicated to your training.

    The whole workout should last around 60 minutes. Try to complete two or three sessions per week, but not on consecutive days. Rest for three minutes between each exercise.

    Push-Ups

    An excellent start to a workout—and one I would recommend as a warm-up for a weight workout too. It pushes both pectoral muscles hard, as well as working the biceps, triceps and deltoids.

    1. Lie face down on the floor. Support yourself off the ground with locked arms.
    2. Your palms should be flat and be located directly in line with your shoulders.
    3. Your feet should be bent at the toes.
    4. The only point of contact with the floor should be toes and palms of the hand.
    5. Ensure that your back, buttocks and legs form one straight line.
    6. This is the starting position.
    7. Lower your upper body towards the floor by bending your arms only.
    8. Stop when your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
    9. At all times during this movement, your back and legs should remain in a perfect line.
    10. Raise yourself up again by powering through your pectoral muscles.
    11. Once your arms are locked, one repetition has been completed and you have returned to the starting position.
    12. Complete repetitions as below.

    I would recommend first trying this exercise until exhaustion. Starting a workout like this means defining your limits. Once you have found your limit (say 20 repetitions), rest for three minutes and then aim for your limit again. Finally, another three-minute rest and one final run through. On the next session in a couple of days time, try to increase by one extra repetition.

    Man doing push ups

    Single-Leg Push-Ups

    This exercise is a variation on the traditional push-up. By forcing the body to remain stable on three contact points, it works the pectoralis minor muscle hard. In addition, it strengthens the core and shoulders.

    1. Begin in the traditional push-up position as described above, with arms locked-out and legs and back straight.
    2. Raise your right leg 8-10 inches above the ground.
    3. This is the starting position.
    4. Keeping your gluteus muscles tight during this exercise improves position.
    5. Lower yourself to the ground by bending your arms.
    6. Stop when arms are at 90 degrees.
    7. Tense the chest muscles and push yourself back up to the starting position.
    8. Complete half the amount of repetitions that is your ‘limit’ on standard push-ups.
    9. Lower right leg and raise left leg 8-10 inches from the floor.
    10. Complete the same number of repetitions on this side.
    11. Complete two more sets with a three-minute rest in between.

    If you find that completing half the repetitions as for standard push-ups is too difficult, reduce the number. Every new session, try to increase your fatigue limit by one extra rep.

    Diamond Push-Up

    An exercise which works both pectoral muscles. This is an exercise which can be modified to increase difficulty as you progress, as I will explain.

    1. Start by kneeling on the ground.
    2. Lean forward and support your body with locked arms, palms flat on the floor, directly below your head (as opposed to under shoulders for a traditional push-up).
    3. Form a diamond shape with both thumbs and both forefingers touching each other.
    4. Unlock your arms so your elbows move outward, thus lowering you towards the floor.
    5. When the arms reach 90 degrees, stop.
    6. Push back until your arms are fully locked again.
    7. Repeat as below for three sets, with a three-minute break.
    8. Increase by one repetition per session.

    Again, this is an exercise in which you first need to discover your fatigue limit, and use as your benchmark to aim and increase from.

    Once proficient, you can increase difficulty by using your toes instead of your knees as the pivot point.

    Elevated Push-Ups

    Find a heavy chair that will not move under a little pressure, with around six feet of space in front of it. Placing it against a wall will increase stability.

    1. Start on all-fours with your back to the chair. Place palms flat on the floor with locked arms.
    2. Starting with your right foot, lift it onto the chair seat behind you. Complete the move by lifting your left foot.
    3. You are now supported off the floor by palms on the ground and toes on the chair.
    4. This is the starting position.
    5. Keeping a straight back, lower your torso toward the floor, by bending your arms. At 90 degrees, push back into the starting position.
    6. Complete reps as below. Do two more sets with a three-minute rest in between.

    You should be able to complete half the number of your standard push-ups for this exercise, or whatever leads to fatigue. Increase by one repetition per session.

    Warm down with a few standard push-ups and stretches.

    Best Chest Workout with Equipment

    This workout will lead not only to improved tone but also large muscle gains if worked hard week by week. Use weights that promote fatigue at the repetition level indicated below. Complete no more than twice a week, with three days in between sessions.

    The rest time between each set should be three minutes.

    Double Dumbbell Bench Press

    An exercise which is enhanced by the use of dumbbells instead of a barbell. This forces the pectoralis minors to work hard to increase stability. Equipment required: standard bench and dumbbells.

    1. Lie flat on a bench, face up.
    2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand to the side of your chest. Your elbows should be pointing outward and forearms raised at 90 degrees.
    3. Face your palms towards your feet.
    4. This is the starting position.
    5. Push the weights upwards until arms are locked, while breathing out.
    6. Hold for a count of one second.
    7. Slowly lower to the starting position again while breathing in.
    8. Complete 6–8 repetitions. Rest. Complete another 6–8 reps. Rest. Finish with 8–10 repetitions if possible.

    Concentrate on your breathing during this tough exercise to enhance performance.

    Man doing push up with dumbbells

    Incline Barbell Press

    An exercise which should be completed with a spotter for safety. Equipment required: an incline bench, barbell and weights.

    1. Place weights on bar as applicable for your training level.
    2. Lay with back on the bench, feet firmly planted on the ground.
    3. Arch back and pull back your shoulders (otherwise they will do the work).
    4. Grasp bar, with palms facing outwards.
    5. Raise bar off the bench rack, holding above chest with arms locked out.
    6. This is the starting position.
    7. Bring the bar down to the chest by bending the elbows while inhaling.
    8. Once it touches the chest, push back through the bar until in the starting position again, while breathing out.
    9. Complete 6–8 repetitions. Rest. Complete another 6–8 reps. Rest. Finish with 8–10 repetitions if possible.

    Try not to ‘bounce’ the bar off the torso, as this is denying the pectorals a proper workout.

    Double Dumbbell Incline Fly

    Works both the pectoral muscles as well as the deltoids. Equipment required: incline bench and dumbbells.

    1. Lie flat on an incline bench at 20–30 degrees with a dumbbell in each hand.
    2. Raise arms so dumbbells are above your head.
    3. Palms should be facing each other, elbows slightly bent (not locked).
    4. This is the starting position
    5. Lower the arms to your sides while breathing in – towards an airplane position.
    6. When palms are parallel to the floor, stop.
    7. Breathe out and raise dumbbells to the starting position again.
    8. Throughout this exercise the arms should remain slightly flexed.
    9. Complete 10 repetitions. Rest. Complete another 10 reps. Rest. Finish with 12 repetitions.

    Dumbbell Push-Up

    With lighter weights, this exercise can function as a good warm-down exercise. With heavier weights it can be an addition to the main workout. Equipment required: dumbbells. Those with flat sides (such as the hexagonal or octagonal variety) provide greater stability.

    1. Put two dumbbells on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
    2. Move into the standard push-up position as already described above. However, instead of palms flat on floor, lock arms with hands gripping dumbbells.
    3. Ensure back and legs are straight.
    4. This is the starting position.
    5. Bend arms and lower yourself until arms are at 90 degrees.
    6. Push back up into the starting position.
    7. Pull up one dumbbell to your chest while supporting yourself on the toes and one arm.
    8. Lower dumbbell.
    9. Repeat on the other side.
    10. That is one repetition completed.
    11. Finish 10 repetitions. Rest. Complete a further 10 repetitions. Rest. Finish with 10 reps.

    This exercise takes some perseverance for technique, but is a powerful strength and stamina builder.

    Conclusion

    Maintaining a chest workout regime is not all about gaining large muscle mass. It can improve appearance, health and make daily life much easier.

    As this article has shown, there is no requirement for access to gym or weights to push the pectoral muscles hard. Muscle tone, size and strength can be improved by using the body’s own weight as resistance.

    However, using the equipment workout above will lead to impressive muscle gain if you use weighting that pushes you hard.

    Whatever your requirements, one of the workouts above will help.

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